Friday, June 22, 2012

Review of Cherie Priest's Hellbent

Hellbent (Cheshire Red Reports, Book 2)

Hellbent by Cherie Priest
Published:  2011
Publisher:  Ballantine Books

(From the back of the book)  Vampire and thief Raylene Pendle doesn't need more complications in her life. Her Seattle home is already overrun by a band of misfits, including Ian Stott, a blind vampire, and Adrian deJesus, an ex-Navy SEAL/drag queen.  But Raylene still can't resist an old pal's request:  seek out and steal a bizarre set of artifacts.  Also on the hunt is a brilliant but certifiably crazy sorceress determined to stomp anyone who gets in her way.  But Raylene's biggest problem is that Ian, after the death of his vaunted patriarch, has become the next target of some bloodsucking sociopaths.  Now Raylene must snatch up the potent relics, solve a murder, and keep Ian safe - all while fending off that psychotic sorceress.  But at least she won't be alone.  A girl could do a lot worse for a partner than an ass-kicking drag queen - right?  

I read Hellbent while I was at the AP English Literature Reading in Louisville, KY.  For 9 days, I spent 8am - 5pm reading essay question 3 of the AP Lit test.  One would think that I wouldn't want to read anything after reading essays all day, but I did.  This is my first book by Priest to read and I think I will read more.  I didn't love Hellbent, but it was entertaining enough for me to keep reading.

The protagonist, Raylene, is smart, witty, sassy, and scarred.  Since I didn't read the first book in this series, I missed some of her back story.  That didn't stop me from understanding and enjoying this book, though.  I enjoyed the action scenes and many of the scenes with Raylene and the cast of characters she meets in her adventures.  I didn't quite understand what motivated Raylene in a few of the scenes, and that did frustrate me a bit.  She seemed closed off and wary in the opening scenes of the novel, but then she invites a relative stranger to live with her in her secret home.  While she does have a history of taking in a few "strays," I didn't exactly see why she took in this latest guest.  I see why Priest included it as a plot device, but I didn't buy that Raylene would do that.  Maybe if I had read the first book in the series, I would be more understanding.

Priest includes several conflicts to keep the plot moving and most of them were fun adventures.  The one constant conflict involves penis bones.  Yep, penis bones.  When I first read that, I snorted out loud in the essay reading room.  People around me frowned at me.  But, how can you not snort at a book that includes penis bones?  Obviously, these are not human penis bones.  They are the bones of other mystical creatures - werewolves and the like.  These bones help magnify the magical power of the user.  Odd, but I went with it. At the very least, it was original.  I haven't read other books about magical penis bones.  (As a side note, when I was in graduate school, I often dreamed about the lofty literature I would read and discuss.  Never did I ever think I'd be writing about a book that has penis bones as a central plot element.  Kind of fun, isn't it?)

Most of the conflicts were resolved satisfactorily.  The ending of the novel clearly sets up the next installment in the series.  I may go back to read the first book in the series, Bloodshot, but I'm not in a hurry.

2 1/2 stars out of 5

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